The Secret to Staying Relevant in an Evolving Industry? Focus on the Customer
For over 25 years, DTS Communicate has proudly served clients all across Australia with our innovative blend of print services. We have the ability to not only receive and analyze data, but transform it across a wide range of different platforms. Our business began in the days of the mainframe computer and line printers, but it has long since evolved into something far more important.
State-of-the-art page composition and variable data printing software have become the new norm. When combined with advanced digital laser printers, intelligent insertion equipment, and other advancements, we're now in a better position than ever to offer solutions to clients of all industries, no matter their communication needs.
But even referring to ourselves as a "print services provider" doesn't tell the whole story, as it puts something of an artificial limitation on what we do. Some of our clients are just looking for someone to handle essential mail—for them, we do bills and invoices and statements and other things of that nature. But for most of our clients, our job is to bring them out of the world of paper and into the modern era so they can better communicate with their customers.
Over the last two decades that I've spent with the company, the industry—and the world—has changed exponentially. Even before the smartphone thrust us into the "digital first" age, there was already a major shift away from paper and towards fully electronic communication environments. DTS Communicate has shifted in the same direction over this time, all in the name of providing greater value to our customers.
Once we knew what our customers wanted, we had all the information we needed to figure out how to give it to them. Those customers were clear: they wanted digital. Therefore, it became our job to support that.
The Arc of Progress Is Slow But Steady
It's difficult to imagine a time when the industry wasn't digital like it is today. But from our point of view, I can tell you exactly when evolution began to pick up steam: 2011.
DTS Communicate has always used Xerox printers. When I first started with the company, we were using metacode to produce output. Progress was a move to a product called PReS, which was locally available. We moved on from that to a more visually-based product called OPUS, which we relied on for a number of years.
But in 2011, OPUS was starting to show its age and quickly became unsupportable in many ways. We switched back to PReS, but the issue is that it was primarily a programming language. We were running into problems trying to produce large output—we had jobs that would run for 12 or 14 hours, and that was time we could not afford.
At the same time, we were also finding that more and more of our customers were presenting us with what they classed as "Print-Ready PDFs," or PDF documents that were coming out of various systems that they then expected us to be able to extract information from. This, too, made things difficult on the best of days.
Being the IT manager, it was my job to find a solution that would not only allow us to better serve our customers in the short term, but that would also power our business for the next 20 years and beyond.
After careful research, we chose Quadient, which at the time was called GMC. Little did I know, that one decision all those years ago would pave the way for an incredible era of evolution for DTS Communicate and for our clients.
The factor that initially attracted me to Quadient was that it was the one family of products that did it all. We only had to learn one language and we could do everything we needed. Most other alternatives had differing bits and pieces. I loved the idea of having a product where I could pick the little magic boxes and put them into a sequence and get it to do what I needed, all in one easy-to-use environment.
Once the decision had been made, one of the first things we looked at were some of those jobs that I referenced earlier that were taking many hours to run. One in particular used to take up to 12 hours to produce the output. When we rebuilt that job in Quadient and ran it, it suddenly took less than half an hour to produce the same output.
At that point, we knew we were onto something.
As I said, one of the major challenges we were facing during this time had to do with many of our customers moving to various accounting packages that would produce PDFs as output rather than raw data. Luckily, Quadient checked this box as well.
Building a Path to Evolution, One Brick at a Time
In a lot of ways, Quadient contributed to our own shift over the years towards embracing electronic delivery using Messenger. That platform had to be able to distribute on our customer's behalf, and we wanted to be able to use Quadient’s automation engine to do as much of that as possible.
To give you an example, we had an application for one customer that had all of their offices around Australia connected together using a web-to-print ordering system. They would upload their data for all jobs once a month, and over that period they would generate between 50,000 and 60,000 emails.
Unless something went wrong, that was all driven by the customer, not by us. Most of the time, all of that information was untouched (although monitored). Via automation, they could upload the data, check samples and proofs, sign off on it, and get the system to run and send. This freed up valuable time for actual human employees to focus on bigger and more important things.
This represented an incredible shift in the types of things we were able to deliver to our own customers. Over the last few years, we've seen a significant reduction in the amount of mail packs that we produce each week. For one customer, we were producing roughly 80,000 physical mail packs per month. Even though their business expanded, we helped them get that number down to about 8,000. This was symbolic of what DTS Communicate itself was going through, which involved moving away from physical mailers and embracing more of the digital side of the industry.
If nothing else, this makes us a far leaner organization than ever. However, we still need to be able to prove value to our customers. Thanks to Quadient Inspire, we're now able to accomplish important goals like providing a consistent format to clients. Not only can we dramatically increase deliverability, but we're also in a better position to know when things don't deliver and why.
We're also using Quadient's own content manager for version control, which has been enormously helpful. It allows us to not only store everything, but also keep a robust library of everything we've ever done, including all assets and resources. Now, when someone comes along and says, "Do you remember that job we did five years ago?" I can say, "Yes, we've still got it. Here's what it looked like. Here are all the files we used to make it. What is it that you wanted?"
Having that version control and a place to store everything that the system understands is another area that has been critical to supporting us on our own journey.
Where Do We Go From Here?
Overall, DTS Communicate has been able to rapidly increase our production times, which is vital in a day and age where everyone demands immediate gratification. Over the years, we've seen customers go from expectations of 48 to 72 hours of turnaround time for a job, to the point where they expect to get something back in a couple of minutes.
Today, we run applications out of our online system that generate images for people to use on Facebook, for example. They log in, upload some images, put in some text, and press the order button. Just a minute or two later, they get an email with their image. That process alone used to take days and would involve countless hours in manual assembly, but now we can service our customers at the speed they’ve come to expect.
Looking forward, there are a few things that excite us, particularly in terms of dynamic communications. There is a market for applications that can give a more data-driven, personalized experience. It's something that we're talking with a number of our clients about now. It'll once again help us deliver more and more value to our customers, which is ultimately the most important goal of all.
If your mission is to generate as much value as possible to the people you serve, the evolution of an entire industry isn't something you need to dread any longer. You can embrace it, because you're no longer passively reacting to it. You're actively participating in the change.
You just need to find the right solution that helps you do that. For us, that solution is Quadient, and we couldn't be happier with the results.